Black Friday…shopping or…Sailing!!!

1 12 2009

Like most years, Black Friday (the day after thanksgiving) started out like most others.  Weary from too much turkey and libations, thinking the couch is looking rather fine this morning while the ladies in our lives (and a few brave man souls) prepare to battle it out in the shopping centers for Christmas bargains.  I stop at Haithco Park in Saginaw County to stretch my legs, as i gaze across the lawn and beach area surrounded by leafless trees and a gray fall sky I see wings of white, must be geese.  Refocus…man those are big geese!  It’s a fleet of sailboats!  Don’t they know it’s not summer and it could snow at any time?  Yes the boys of summer(sailors not baseball players) are squeezing in one more sail before putting their beloved vessel away for winter.

1st Annual Black Friday Laser Regatta on Haithco Lake

Let’s back up a little and fill in some blanks.  This is the fourth year in a row a  small group of Mid-Michigan sailors have sailed on Haithco Lake on Black Friday.  It started as a whim with nothing to do after turkey day and the weather was inviting.  Some years its balmy(pushing 60 degrees), others not so much.  This group of brave souls sail a class of boat called the International Laser Class.  The Laser is also an olympic class boat.  It is 13’10” long, weighs 130lbs and is sailed by one person.  The group of sailors have traveled to and from regattas with each other for years and arranged racing weekends on Saginaw and Tawas Bay in their Lasers.  This year lead by Jon Banner and Tom Hernick the group decided to become an actual Laser class fleet (Mid Michigan Laser Fleet).  With that under the belt it was decided to make the quickly becoming annual ritual of Black Friday an actual regatta and invite others from around the Michigan District to join in.  That leads us back to now.

Its cold.  Its blustery.  They don’t really care, at least it appears to the novice they do not.  The sailors rig their boats with an array of colored lines.  The boats range from a 30+ year old Laser to a brand new one.  The sailors range in age from a teenager to 60+ years of age.  They bundle themselves up in wet suits and dry suits, putting on ski hats and a variety of gloves and water shoes and boots.  One guy is sailing bare foot.  There is an ice fishing shanty with a heater in it to change in and warm up.  They are laughing like children on a play ground.  Oh did I mention there are 14 boats out?

swimming in November?

Yes, 14 boats, many more than were expected from the small group of locals.  Sailors traveled far and wide to sail this day.  Sailors not only from Saginaw, Frankenmuth, Linwood and Hemlock but also White Lake, Boyne City, Grand Rapids, Fenton, Rochester, Lansing and Cleveland(Ohio).

The racing took place from 1pm to 3 pm.  7 races were run.   There were a lot of sailors who capsized their boats and were swimming in the frigid water(hence the need for wet suits and dry suits).  This didn’t seem to dampen their moods or fun, they just righted the boats and sailed on.  White boats, blue boats, yellow boats, grey boats, all colors all wet.  In the end Tom LaBelle from Rochester claimed the top prize and was crowned champion of the first annual Black Friday Regatta.

I enjoyed the view as a spectator.  It was a beautiful site to see boats sailing along, especially in November when you don’t expect it or do you?  What a great event for the Saginaw County Park’s and Mid Michigan. 

Lesson learned.  There is much more to do in our world on Black Friday than shop.  So if you are looking for a different stimulus for the holiday blues, head out to Haithco next year for the Black Friday Regatta.  You might just find yourself on a sailboat…in November… in Michigan.

The local group also sails on Haithco in the warmer months.  Tuesday nights throughout most of the summer gathering around 5pm.




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